Why you should wear sunscreen every day to prevent premature aging

Why you should wear sunscreen every day to prevent premature aging

If you’re like me, you’re probably concerned about premature aging and the effect that the sun has on your skin. At the same time, you probably appreciate a good tan and a day at the beach. Unfortunately, it seems you can’t have cake and eat it too. We have all heard that we should wear sunscreen every day, and we are all familiar with the message of slip, slop, slap for cancer prevention. But, how much of this information is true and do we really need to wear sunscreen every day?

It’s a seemingly simple question.

The problem lies in that we have a whole range of factors at play with conflicting evidence and guidelines. Or suggestions that don’t take into account the bigger picture. In Australia, it’s very much a part of our culture to be outdoors, who can blame us when nature has afforded us with some of the best coastlines on Earth. Yet, we’re a nation where 1/4 of us are vitamin D deficient, in a country that often experiences a UV-index classified as extreme, with a population that is 75% white European. It’s a dangerous mix; our skin is simply not designed for the Australian climate. How are we supposed to balance out all the risks of skin cancer, the need for vitamin D, our cultural preference for outdoor life, all while minimising premature aging?

Let’s break it down.

How does UV radiation cause premature Aging?

UV exposure has been proven to be a contributing factor in premature aging. The most visible signs of which are wrinkles, sagging and hyperpigmentation. You can see the difference directly by looking at the skin on your bum compared to the rest of your body. The skin is soft, often lacks wrinkles and has an even skin tone. The relationship between UV exposure and hyperpigmentation is fairly well known, but what most people don’t realise is that the amount of UV exposure your skin gets also determines how noticeable your wrinkles become.

Over time UVA radiation damages the DNA and breaks down the connective tissue (collagen and elastin) which are the proteins that keep our skin firm and healthy. When it breaks down, it’s this damage to the connective tissue that causes the skin to sag, wrinkles to form, and the overall loss of skin elasticity. This damage of the cellular DNA is also what causes the genetic mutations that lead to cancer. So, if we don’t want any of this to happen we should simply wear sunscreen all day, right?

Maybe, but what about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble secosteroid that helps to synthesize and absorb zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphate. Having a vitamin D deficiency has been associated with several chronic diseases from heart disease and cancer to multiple sclerosis. The issue is that to get enough vitamin D, we must expose our skin to Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. It is UVB that is the body’s primary vitamin D source. The difficulty is that in doing so, we also expose our skin to the more damaging UVA radiation. So paradoxically, to get the benefits of vitamin D you are knowingly increasing your risk of premature aging and skin cancer.

But wait, doesn’t vitamin D help the skin stay youthful?

Because vitamin D supports the absorption and synthesis of Zinc, it also increases your body’s ability to fight acne, improves your immune response, and speeds up wound healing. Zinc also serves as a co-factor for collagen production, which means that it activates proteins essential for collagen synthesis. So, it’s not necessarily the direct effect of Vitamin D on the skin, but rather what vitamin D does to other skin improving vitamins and minerals.

What does this mean for sunscreen?

Balance is key. It’s important that we get all the skin and general health benefits of vitamin while also minimising our exposure to UV radiation. Your body produces the most Vitamin D between 10am-3pm and you only need to expose your skin for 15 minutes every 2-3 days to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.

Should I still wear sunscreen every day?

This means you can apply sunscreen to your face every day to prevent UV-related premature aging, but, so long as you are still exposing other parts of your body to direct sunlight.

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